Panel discusses domestic violence

BROOKFIELD – A panel of experts who deal with domestic violence issues shared insights of what individuals need to do when faced with such a situations as obtaining civil protection orders.

The community forum held Thursday at Brookfield United Methodist Church was hosted by the church’s outreach team. More than 20 people attended.

The Rev. Joyce Lawson and Anita Hern of the church said the team wanted to help spread community awareness of what can be done to help individuals who may be facing domestic violence.

Linda Baer-Bigley, program manager / legal advocate supervisor with Someplace Safe, a domestic violence shelter in Warren, said she encourages women who have faced domestic violence to attend support groups to receive support from others who have also faced something similar.

”Sometimes individuals feel they are the only ones experiencing this, and no one would understand how they feel. I encourage support groups because you don’t feel so much alone,” Baer-Bigley said.

She said at Someplace Safe, when parents attend the support group, there is also a group available for children.

Baer-Bigley and others go into the schools and other community locations for programs on bullying and dating violence, including how juvenile protection orders can be issues to protect minors.

Legal aid attorney Elsa Gottfried said some cases are very clear and easy to prove that abuse or threat of physical harm has taken place, especially if an individual has bruises or a black eye. Situations involving threats, emotional abuse or stalking are more difficult to prove.

Gottfried said civil protection orders can be obtained in the courts, mainly the family courts, for intimate partners or spouses, parent vs. child, child vs. parent or sibling vs. sibling. When a protection order is obtained against someone, federal law prevents that person from purchasing or possessing a gun.

”I tell people to let them know legal aid is out there to help them. Violating a protection order is a crime and a serious matter,” she said.

Attorney James Hoffman III said, ”Domestic violence often becomes a crime not only of the victim, but of the family. Many times, the victim becomes a witness when the offenses are against the family.”

Brookfield police officer Roy Anne Rudolf said officers responding to a domestic violence are trained to be victim-driven.

”Domestic violence is one of the few crimes we can make an arrest without seeing someone strike or injure someone, since our job is to protect you,” she said. ”The state will act to protect people who can’t protect themselves.”

Too often, domestic violence is seen as a ”crime of secrecy and embarrassment,” she said. Unlike public crimes involving fights at a bar, pursue snatching or robberies at businesses, domestic violence is a crime that happens in private. Friends and relatives often don’t feel comfortable getting involved because it is too personal.

”We encourage people to support someone who is facing domestic violence and to help them find resources to help them,” she said.

A cell phone camera is often used as a ”non-biased witness” and group tool, and can be used to help someone, she said.